Time for a distro?

There are many flavors of FreePBX distributions that make up the huge installed base of FreePBX and as such, we have discussed the wisdom of creating a FreePBX distro for years. The range of options span from AsteriskNOW to the likes of trixbox who packages FreePBX with a name change to keep their branding. (Whether or not trixbox will be around much longer, ??? – more on that.) As this space has evolved, tighter security and other integration spanning FreePBX and the underlying distro has become more important to provide a great user experience and we feel it is critical to the continued success of this great product.

We have watched the dynamics change on the distro front with different flavors of distros available with varying focuses and appealing to different needs of this community. One of the biggest distros, albeit one that masks the FreePBX name to emphasize their branding, has recently made moves hinting they will no longer be investing in the FreePBX space. As a result, we thought we would tell you about what we’ve been up to for some time now. Call it a pre-announcement or what ever you will but we want to make sure that everyone feels confident that the FreePBX space is live and kicking with lots of great things still coming down the pipe, now on the distro front in addition to all the great stuff you’ve been hearing about with FreePBX 2.9!

For those of you who don’t know Schmooze Com, Inc. they are one of the biggest FreePBX resellers as well as the largest corporate FreePBX contributor outside of Bandwidth.com. They put in a significant amount of development on the FreePBX project as well as many of the Aastra XML applications that many of you are familiar with. They run a multi-tiered distribution channel with their own branded FreePBX distribution in a setting that requires the same 24×7 support options and infrastructure as any mainstream PBX vendor requires. As such, they have been in the distro business for years with hundreds of systems in their own installed base. They’ve also been the primary partner on the FreePBX support side and as a result, between Schmooze and our own experience we have a unique view of many key ingredients that should be emphasized in the PBX distro space as well as first hand experience with the various weak links in many of the mainstream FreePBX distros as a result of the hundreds of support customers that we have served using these platforms.

So … we are pleased to tell you that we have teamed up and are leveraging this very strong partnership with Schmooze to bring forward a first class distro that will be fully supported by the FreePBX project! For those of you who are wondering where you go next with the de-investment on the trixbox platform rest assured that there will be a first rate landing place and we’ll also investigate transition aids to help you get here easier. There are some key areas that are of primary focus we have been looking at from the FreePBX distro perspective. At the top of our list are security, streamlined GUI integration and tighter Asterisk integration.

On the security front you’ll see new approaches to assure that no standard passwords are floating around the internet making it easy for hackers to automatically find and exploit open systems as is so often the case today. The tighter GUI integration will present a single GUI view vs. the often cobbled together GUI in a GUI integration that is sometimes the case. We’ve coupled this tighter integration with new ways to approach security holes that are sometimes left vulnerable on some distros that have potentially dangerous root level sudo access to various linux commands provided to allow the GUIs to do their thing. On the Asterisk level we will be providing a yum (rpm) based approach to allow simple to manage packages on your system but with a slight twist. We’ve often run into issues where some critical patches are needed on Asterisk which are making their way on the Asterisk bug tracker but because of conflicting priorities, not always quick enough to address your needs. As a result, we will be providing some of these patches pre-built into the Asterisk rpms that we make available. This provides a great benefit for many of the users saving you from the manual and error prone process of patchong your own versions of Asterisk which often involves installing full copies and breaking the RPMs that your distro may be providing today.

We are very excited about this progression and will fill you in with more over the coming weeks. We’ll also let you know how you can get an early copy to start evaluating shortly though if you can’t wait that long, feel free to ping me and when I get back from a short vacation (I’m on the plane now 🙂 (Or come on over to our [url=/open-telephony-training-seminar]FreePBX Training in May[/url] and get a first hand view of what is going on!) I’ll see what I can do. There are still several distros out there with their own value adds and flavors so rest assured that as a development team, we are still fully dedicated to the continued development and greater FreePBX community that helps make this such a great project. For those of you who may be looking for alternatives though with some of the coming changes in this space, we will be very happy to welcome you on board!

[b]Philippe[/b] – On behalf of the FreePBX and Schmooze team!